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MORAL    JUDGMENTS    IN    HISTORY

would seem to have reserved the severest judgment for
the men who support what they describe as " absolu-
tism " ; and the rest of the wide world of moral action
that is open to a man seems either to be ignored, as a
mere matter of private life, or is reserved for a
concession made in parenthesis. It is difficult to see how
anybody who surveys historical literature—even leaving
out of the reckoning the vast amount of writing which
patently misuses the occasion for polemical purposes—
could feel that justice is done to the place of morality in
life by those spasmodic incursions into the field of ethics.
It would be foolish to take arms against the mere
obiter dicta of historians, however, or against the inci-
dental .utterance of personal opinions. These things
have a way of leaking into a narrative, and they are not
to be taken as part of the structure of the history. We
can accept them as the addition of a sort of colouring
matter, while refusing to construe them seriously or to
admit any pontifical claim that may be put forward on
their behalf. A greater danger arises, however, if moral
judgments are incorporated in the structure of the
narrative, if they control the mounting of the story, and
if they become embedded in the very fabric of our
historical thinking. Above all it is necessary to resist
those who claim for the historian the solemn role of
moral arbiter, and particularly those who transfer this
ethical preoccupation into the reconstruction of the
whole course of ages. Important issues are raised if the
struggle of Whigs and Tories is ranged into an epic
conflict of the righteous against the unrighteous. Those
who pitch their claim so high are tempting the technical

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